CPD: Site security
• Why protecting sites is important
• What dangers can threaten unprotected sites
• What measures are most effective in preventing access
We're all aware that protecting construction sites from intruders is important. But given the size of many projects, and the determination of those who want to get in, how is it to be achieved? Carl Clarke offers some pointers.
The need to prevent intruders accessing construction sites, inadvertently putting themselves at risk, or potentially vandalising equipment and materials, is widely appreciated, as is the need to prevent theft and subsequent loss. However, many construction companies, and smaller ones in particular, still place site security quite low on their agenda.
But protection need not be expensive, particularly if the right solution is implemented from the outset.
Contractors also have a duty of care to themselves and their workforce as well as the public and this is why the boundaries between site security and health and safety are continuing to merge.
Construction sites are still inherently dangerous. The construction sector currently has 1.9 deaths per 100,000 workers compared to an all-industry average of 0.5 per 100,000 workers and there are an alarming number of people injured on construction sites each year in situations that could be prevented.
The first objective of any site security initiative is to keep unauthorised people safely outside. But there will always be those that try to gain access.
In a recent high-profile incident, “a thrill seeker” gained unauthorised access to a high-rise crane in Southampton, climbing to the top and then performing a number of extreme stunts, including hanging from the spar by just one arm. The resulting video made at the time went viral, with more than 1.3 million views in a month. Aside from the issue of whether appropriate precautions to secure and protect the site were in place, the reputational damage of such incidents to the contractor could have far reaching and long term consequences – particularly if the outcome is a fatality – and could even lead to the business no longer being able to secure new contracts or operate.
A thrill seeker was able to enter this site in Southampton and climb to the top of the crane
There are also long-term financial implications for contractors as insurance companies may not to provide insurance cover, levy much larger premiums or refuse to cover any associated claims if necessary safety and security precautions are not taken.
Even financiers will now often look at the wider picture when considering which projects to back. If they feel that inadequate emphasis is being placed on health and safety implementation or general site security they could deem it unwise to be associated with the project.
Making sites more safe and secure
Awareness of regulations and positive changes in working attitudes are central to ensuring construction sites are as safe as possible. It is becoming increasingly evident that where a CCTV solution that monitors both the perimeter and the wider site is installed the workforce is far more attentive to safety issues and therefore far less likely to take risks.
When it comes to property, almost £1m of plant theft occurs every week with significant amounts of material going missing, although it is hard to get an accurate figure as much of this crime goes unreported.
Statistics also indicate that there are, on average, 11 fires on construction sites every day – collectively costing the industry £400m a year – and around 40% of these are arson. Appropriate smoke and fire sensors, assuming they are being constantly monitored, can prevent loss of life and also minimise the damage caused both on the site and to surrounding buildings.
When it comes to individual equipment, affordable safety and security benefits are still possible. The simple addition of fencing or hoarding around the accessible base of a scaffolding installation and the addition of correctly positioned scaffold alarms would provide an effective deterrent to most potential intruders. Unfortunately, if the scaffolding is only going to be erected for a short time, many don’t see the requirement for a hoarding.
Similarly, scaffold alarms, if used, are often not installed correctly so that they either go off continuously and are ignored or don’t correctly cover the access points, so anybody climbing onto the scaffolding is not detected. More industry-wide training and regulation is needed in this area and this is happening, if slowly.
Even something as simple as access controls on MEWPs (Mobile Elevated Working Platforms) can ensure only fully trained people operate them and that they are regularly maintained, resulting in fewer accidents.
CCTV, when installed in conjunction with a site access control system, typically leads to safer sites and better working practices, and not only acts as a deterrent but means subcontractors and deliveries can be monitored on arrival and as they depart a site. The recorded footage can be used to refute spurious claims and it helps ensure they don’t take risks while on site. CCTV footage is increasingly being used to provide appropriate evidence in claims. Linking them to automated fire alarms provides added protection, while connecting back to a 24/7 managed control centre is the ultimate solution.
There is an array of ready packaged CCTV solutions on the UK market today. But choosing the right one and making sure it is properly installed and that all the likely access points are covered is critical and is why many larger construction companies and increasingly the smaller ones are employing specialists like PermanexCCS to advise, erect and monitor the solutions protecting their sites.
Daily monitoring of cameras
CCTV camera systems can now be independent of local power systems, produce far crisper images and are reliable. Between six to 10 cameras would be regarded as a typical installation for a site that’s operational for nine months or more. Performance should be monitored on a daily basis with site maintenance visits every couple of months. The cost of this is from £170 a week including key holding, remote 24-hour monitoring and any emergency call-outs. The site contractor can also monitor the video feeds on site or over the internet, viewing either a “live” feed or recorded footage of an incident.
In one instance, CCTV footage captured by a PermanexCCS-installed system was used by a developer when a site worker fell from scaffolding and sustained injury. In the recording the operative was clearly seen undoing a section of the scaffolding and then falling off.
Fortunately, it was only from the first level and didn’t result in major injury, but it proved that the scaffold had been correctly installed before it was interfered with. If cameras had not been operating and captured the incident, the operative may have tried to sue the contractor or a prosecution many have ensued. In this instance the developer was completely exonerated and the HSE was grateful for such an open and shut case.
This is also not an isolated instance. A whole variety of safety issues and incidents have been caught on camera over the years and many more will be caught in the future as more cameras are used on construction sites. In some cases the evidence has been used to protect the site operator and in others has helped prove that there was a problem and enabled appropriate action to be taken to prevent such an incident occurring again.
Making a plan
What can be done to implement a robust security plan and improve the site you’re currently working from? The first thing is to ensure common sense and best practice is applied to all things security and safety related. What’s more, a few simple and relatively inexpensive actions should have a significant impact on the overall provision.
In addition to monitoring access to the site and putting appropriate preventative measures in place, like those already detailed in this article, using accredited security providers is important. Even the most sophisticated security solutions will not prevent a loss if they are simply installed and forgotten, so regular monitoring by somebody that understands the system and technology is vital. Whoever is responsible for delivering your security provision knows where any weaknesses are and how to exploit them, so you need to be totally confident in their ability and professionalism.
Keeping appropriate equipment and materials registers is also vital as knowing what should be on site means that you can identify what has gone missing should a loss occur. This information could also be passed to the authorities in the event of a loss so that serial numbers are available.
Ensuring all crime is reported and that action is taken is just as important. If the construction industry and authoritative bodies like the CIOB can better understand and quantify the size and scope of the problem they can then focus on the areas that would best benefit from further research. This should also lead to the development of clearer directives and informed suggestions for all in the construction sector to adopt.
Managerial recognition that security and health and safety are important board level issues will also send positive messages throughout the sector. Permeating this message down the management tree is equally important because site and project managers need to know how to deal with crime and that they will receive the support they need to implement strategies.
Finally, and probably one of the most important points, is to ensure all employees have their identities checked and references obtained and are made aware of the stance you take as the contractor towards site security. Employing staff that either don’t have the necessary skills or simply don’t have the right positive approach to dealing health and safety or security issues will continue to damage the public image of the construction sector which needs to be seen as a professional and self regulated industry.
Individuals working on a site still need to be monitored to ensure they are safe. In one incident a tradesman had an accident while working, but because nobody else knew he was on site, he was unaccounted for. His body was eventually discovered when colleagues came back on site the following day. A simple checking in/checking out process would have meant that his absence would have been noted and assistance provided before his accident became fatal.
Main contractors operating large, high-profile sites are increasingly using technology-based solutions, including turnstiles and biometric systems, to help manage site access. This type of system can not only monitor who is on site and when, but can also be integrated with databases to determine what equipment they are qualified on or entitled to operate or ensure they do not exceed operating hours.
Miller Construction, the main contractor for the £102m Avon and Somerset PFI project for four new police custody facilities, opted to install a biometric access solution from PermanexCCS. A purpose-built cabin was located at each of the four site entrances and contractors and all potential site visitors had to pre-register via an online system, providing various security details.
On arriving at any one of the sites for the first time, each individual then had to be validated and their identity confirmed, with their fingerprint being captured by a state-of-the-art reader at the turnstile. This then meant they simply had to have their fingerprints re-read to gain subsequent access to any of the sites.
What’s more, the subcontractors were each responsible for uploading all the necessary personal information so it was not a time-consuming task for the main contractor to administer.
Carl Clarke is managing director at PermanexCCS, one of the leading UK providers of construction site security solutions. For further information or assistance in implementing a strategy call 0870 900 1473 or visit www.Permanexccs.co.uk